Wednesday, May 21, 2008

2007-08 Rink Wrap: Michael Nylander

From Backstrom to Steckel, we're taking a quick look at and grading the 2007-08 season for every player* who laced 'em up for the Caps during the campaign (and is still with the team) with an eye towards 2008-09. Next up, Michael Nylander.

Contract Status: 2008-09 salary of $5,500,000 (salary cap hit of $4,875,000); UFA after 2010-11 season
Age (as of October 1, 2008): 35 (he'll turn 36 two days later)
NHL Seasons (including 2007-08): 13+
2007-08 Regular Season Stats: 40 games played, 11 goals, 26 assists, -19, 24 PIMs
Key Stat: Nylander was second on the team in points per game (.925).
Surprising Stat: Nylander won 48.8% of the faceoffs he took before he got hurt (while taking 12.8 faceoffs per game) and 48.6% while playing injured (while averaging 14 draws per game).

The Good: Even though he played hurt for a third of his season, Nylander was on pace for a 22 goal/53 assist season, which is just a tick under his post-lockout averages of 24.5 and 56.5, respectively, and given that more than half of his games came while Glen Hanlon was still behind the bench, it's quite possible he would have beaten those averages. Nylander's 14.3 shot percentage trailed just Brooks Laich and Alex Ovechkin among Caps who played 20 or more games and was the second-best efficiency of his career. He trailed only Ovechkin in average ice time per game among forwards, had eleven multi-point games and two five-game point streaks, and his 36.9 power-play point pace would have had him in the top 10 in the League had it continued for a full season. But the biggest positive from Nylander's season (as Peerless notes) may have been the blessing in disguise that his injury turned out to be, as it forced Nicklas Backstrom into an undisputed number one center role, one in which the rookie flourished.

The Bad: That team-worst minus-19 sticks out like a sore shoulder, err, thumb, but owes a bit to Nylander playing through pain - from the game in which he is believed to have hurt his shoulder until he finally shut it down for the season, Nyls was minus-seven in 13 games (though he did manage to rack up a dozen points in that stretch). But that still leaves 26 "healthy" games in which he was a minus-14 (the game in which he was injured isn't included in either the pre- or post-injury numbers, since it's unclear when during the game he was hurt), including a miserable minus-ten November. But you can probably chalk it up to an adjustment to new teammates and a new system (two, actually), since in his entire career, Nylander has only finished a season with a minus rating three times, and never in double digits. There's more bad too, but take it with the grain of salt that 1/3 of his season was played with just one shoulder. Nylander was on pace for the third-highest PIM total of his career, had the most secondary assists per sixty minutes on the team but was only sixth in primary helpers per sixty (not necessarily a bad thing, but somewhat surprising), and perhaps most importantly, opponents scored more goals per sixty when Nylander was on the ice than when any other Cap was.

The Vote: Rate Nylander on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.

The Questions: Which wingers would you like to see flanking Nylander most often in 2008-09? What will it take for him to earn a 10 rating next year?

If you've missed any of the previous 2007-08 Rink Wraps, click here, get caught up, and vote - polls will stay open for a while.

* And by "every," we mean every one who played more than just a handful of games.

22 comments:

JP said...

I gave Nyls a 5. The offense was what I expected and the defense was much worse (even before the injury), but I never had really pegged him as a "play through the pain" guy, so he gets a couple of big points for that.

Chuck G. said...

I just hope he stays healthy through next year as I think he brings a lot of leadership to the table. I'm half and half when it comes to being fancy with the puck on the Power Play but I can see the Caps having a great 1-2 punch on the Power Play next season with Nyls on the 2nd line. If he gets around 70-80 pts next season with an improved +/- rating, I'll give him a 10. (I gave him a 4 btw).

FAUX RUMORS said...

1) Hard to judge the guy fully. His offensive numbers to the point of his injury were what one would have expected based upon his recent past. Therefore a 5 is reasonable.
2) We believe Hanlon mistakenly had he and Backstrom together to both their detriment early on. Both are play makers, and it made little sense to have them together other than for Backstrom's confidence/comfort?
3) Coincidence or not it looked like Backstrom's year took off once Nylander was no longer with him. Points to Michael for playing through pain. Not sure why they waited as long as they did if they knew his injury would require surgery all along?
4) After the fact its obvious it affected his game, especially his defensive side, considerably. For him to get a 10 next season we'd have to see a 30 goal/80 point season. A good +/-, and play 75+ games.

b.orr4 said...

I wish there was an incomplete on your poll because I find it impossible to give him a rating based on all the turmoil at the beginning of the season, the coaching change and then the injury. As someone who knows firsthand how painful a torn rotator cuff can be, I find it amazing he was able to even raise his sick, nevermind defend against opposing centers. The good news is that his injury can be completely rehabbed and I think the Nyls we'll see next season will be the one we thought we were getting last summer. As for linemates, I think pairing him with Semin and Clark could make a pretty dangerous second line. And if GM can get Feds to resign, we'll be as deep as any team down the middle.

JP said...

I hear you, B, but I think "incomplete" is a little bit of a cop out, given that he did play half the season (albeit a third of that through injury). Sure, there was turmoil early on, but other players - less "savvy" players - didn't seem as adversely impacted.

Unrelated, given his injury, I'm astounded at how little his numbers actually trailed off while he was playing hurt.

Bottom line: I'm really excited to see a healthy Nyls in Boudreau's system. Getting him back is almost like getting a top UFA, and I couldn't agree more that 19-92-91-39/15 down the middle is badass... for the first 82 games, at least.

exwhaler said...

I can't give him a rating, 'cause of the injury and the uncertainty surrounding when he got the injury and how much it affected his game. Like Peerless, I'd probably give him an "incomplete."

Next season will be interesting, just to see who plays where. Back in training camp, Semin and Nylander displayed instant chemistry, but then Semin hurt his ankle before the season started, and then Nyls got hurt. I strongly suspect we haven't seen what those two can actually do together in game situations. Then again, with the play of the Laich-Backstrom-Semin line in the playoffs, I'd be willing to give them a spin again while trying out Nylander on the top line with Ovechkin--but only if Clark is ready to go on the right. Then there's the issue of whether Fedorov is resigned and where he plays if the Caps do that.

Options...gotta love 'em.

breed16 said...

Gave him a 4. JP your Wraps are so thorough I often find it hard to add anything substantive here.

Nylander has always been solid and underrated defensively - as you pointed out he's usually on the plus side in +/-. I can't imagine him repeating a -19 or anything close next year. A healthy Nylander makes Fedorov more a luxury than a necessity and considering our cap situation I'm OK with that.

Last note: why are our only 50%+ face-off guys the 4th liners? What happened to the days when the Caps dominated the face-off circle?

exwhaler said...

(Need an edit function)

>>>"Points to Michael for playing through pain. Not sure why they waited as long as they did if they knew his injury would require surgery all along?"<<<

Most likely because they really didn't have a second line center. Kozlov is okay in a pinch, but JP outlined his weaknesses at center in that Rink Wrap, and Gordon still hasn't discovered is offense at the NHL level yet. When Nylander went out, the Caps' secondary scoring was erratic until McPhee got Fedorov, who was essentially the Nyls Replacement. Nylander knew that, and with the team starting to turn the corner, I think he simply wanted to try and gut it out to help out. Before he went under the knife, the Caps were 10-4-3. It was probably extremely frustrating for him, and I suspect he'll come into next season with something to prove.

Anonymous said...

He spent most of the year hanging around Rockville Ice watching his kids play on Team Maryland selects. Nice man, and a good supported of Montgomery Hockey, but a total fucking bust otherwise.

~Mark said...

Let's put it this way: If Nyls was our number 1 center, I'd be a lot more worried about some of those numbers, injury or not. But it's rather realistic that he will be the second line center much of the season, and may even see some 3rd line center if Feds is signed. With all of the stuff that went on last season (for Nyls and the team), you can't worry too much...yet.

dcrock said...

Anon: tell us how you REALLY feel.

I gave him a 4. Would have been a 5 but his spin-o-ramas started to drive me crazy (and make me dizzy).

Anonymous said...

I gave him a 1. Signing a huge offseason deal, Becoming the teams Highest paid Skater, and geting season ending injury early are enough to earn a 1.

billy said...

I gave him a 5. Aside from AO, he was the only Cap who was producing consistently under Hanlon. His puck possession skills are a huge asset to the team. I'm looking forward to having a healthy Nyles back next season.

Caps Dreamer said...

Those spin-o-ramas drove me crazy, too. I gave him a 4 because I know he has more ability but we really couldn't see it this year.

My biggest worry is how Nyls 'fits' back into the team chemistry that developed without him? Maybe it'll be fine under BB's system with more players playing their natural positions, but chemistry is such a tricky thing. Thoughts on that?

Shaggy said...

@dreamer:
I wondered throughout the end of the season how Nyls would fit in when he came back. He is much more deliberate with the puck than any of our other centers; I thought that was to the offense's detriment at times, to be honest. He just didnt seem to click - but that was under Hanlon's reign.
That said, I think at his best he improved the puck possesion game significantly - I gave him a 4.

breed16 said...

@ dreamer:

I'm not worried in the least. Any center with great playmaking abilities and puck possession skills can fit on a team. It may take a few weeks to get back into a rhythm but the notion that the team has passed him by because of "chemistry" seems silly.

bigonetimer said...

I thought 4 as well. What he could have done for us, if healthy, this year...

It hinges on whether Feds returns, but I like the idea of Clark and Nyls together with AO, and keep Backs with Semin

Anonymous said...

Fucking bust. Waste of time, waste of money. Send him back to NY. Send him to Toronto. Send him anyplace. But, nice guy, as I said.

Brian said...

Before I make a stupid comment, would someone straighten me out on this point: Did Boudreau move Backstrom to the first line before Nylander was injured or after? I seem to recall it was before, but I have trouble remembering my own middle name ...

b.orr4 said...

Hey anonymous 1 & 2, your last name wouldn't be Lowe would it?

Joe said...

Before he was injured? He was awesome! I look forward to a new, refreshed, and un-injured Nylander next season.

exwhaler said...

Brian--I think it may have been right around the time he was injured. He went for surgery in mid-January, but had been injured for at least six weeks. Backstrom started seeing time with Ovechkin almost as soon as Gabby took over, if I'm remembering correctly.

Also, I'm not sure how much time Nylander saw with Ovechkin. He started the season centering Backstrom and Semin.